by Rob Moore

Now that the election is over, many are turning toward what to do next. Voters on the right and left were shocked to see Donald Trump swept into power, someone who represents what neither side of the political spectrum would characterize as an ideological match. With the end of an election comes the real work of policymaking and community building. Below are suggestions about what you, as a member of your community, can do as we enter a new political era.

Get involved with a community organization
The bedrock of American political life is the community organization. Find out what your neighborhood association is. Learn about the local League of Women Voters. Join the NAACP or the Sierra Club. Commit yourself to going to at least two meetings per month. Democracy thrives on connectedness, and your involvement with one organization will give you insight into how local, state, and federal issues interact and how you can be at the table when important decisions are made.

Get involved with your party
While America has become more and more ideologically polarized over the last thirty years, political parties have become increasingly dominated by elites, leaving regular people outside of the party process until elections come along. This leaves people unsatisfied with their party leaders and eventual nominees. Despite this, parties are very easy to get involved with at the ground level. Most county parties have monthly meetings that are open to anyone. A little googling online can point you in the right direction of a local party meeting where you can meet local leaders, learn about local issues, and make an impact.

Become a donor
Membership-based organizations have their strength in their people, but if they want to get their work done, they need money too. Even a recurring $10 monthly donation can go a long way to a county party in a swing state or an issue-based organization like Planned Parenthood. Put your money where your mouth is and support the issues you care about.

Build a relationship with a local elected official
It is surprisingly easy to call up a city councilmember or state representative to have a meeting. If the office tells you they don’t have time, ask when the next community coffee or public meeting will be. Low-level elected officials are very accessible, especially in public, and if you can catch them and ask them for a coffee, they will listen and they will tell you ways you can get involved in the community. And if you find yourself vehemently disagreeing with your representative? Well, maybe you have a campaign of your own around the corner!

Talk to someone who is different from you
We all have family members who vote differently than us. It is amazing how much we pass up the opportunity to talk to them. It might be too soon to broach the topic now, but take a couple of weeks and then give one of them a call. Ask her openly and honestly why she voted the way she did. Don’t accuse her, let her know you really want to understand. Most of us are surrounded by people who share our own political beliefs, but we still have connections to people who are different from us. Foster those connections and try to understand. Maybe it will help you empathize and see their side a little bit better. And if it doesn’t, at least you’ll have some ammunition come 2018.

 

Rob Moore is a  Master of Public Policy candidate at the Goldman School of Public Policy.  Rob writes about state policy, tax and budget policy, and the politics of public policy.